Lyon-Turin work forges ahead despite violence

4 July 2011

Police clashed with protestors at the worksites in the Susa Valley, west of Turin in northwest Italy yesterday over dissent related to construction work for the Lyon-Turin high-speed rail (HSR) link. It was the second time in seven days that the unrest surrounded the project. Police used tear gas against demonstrators on Monday 27 June who had built barricades to prevent the start of construction. Yesterday a tunnel worker and over 30 police officers were injured.

Prior to the violence last Monday, 3000 people demonstrated peacefully, holding a prayer vigil through the night. Protests against the Lyon-Turin rail link, and 57km Mont d'Ambin base tunnel, have largely been on environmental grounds. Susa Valley is considered an area of outstanding natural beauty.

Lyon-Turin Ferroviare (LTF) - a subsidiary of French rail network owner and operator Reseau Ferre de France and Italian rail network owner Rete Ferroviaria Italiana - is the developer of the 'common Franco-Italian section' of the Lyon-Turin rail link, which includes the base tunnel itself.

A spokesperson for LTF today told T&T, “Although many local towns back the project, there are some NIMBY protestors but also a large number of Italian anarchists. It was fortunate that there were few casualties in the clashes last week.

“Yesterday there were about 6000 protestors in the area of Chiomonte, Susa Valley. Italian police pushed back against new assaults of about 250 anarchists close to the building site of Maddalena, also in Susa. Our works are going on, and the main Italian institutions, Piedmont Region and several mayors of the area denounced the riots.”

On the progress of the project as a whole, the spokesperson added, “The main contracts for the construction of the base tunnel have, of course, not yet been awarded. Construction of the main tunnel is not expected to commence before 2013-2014.

“The survey works in the Maurienne valley, France were completed in mid-2010. At the moment, LTF is launching the survey works in Chiomonte, Italy, with the construction of the survey gallery of La Maddalena.

“Preparatory works costing EUR 1.5M (USD 2.18M) were entrusted by LTF to two local contractors, Italcoge and Martina - realisation particulary involving the fence around the building site. The total cost of the survey gallery of Maddalena is EUR 143M (USD 207.78M). The main contractor for excavation will be Italian contractor CMC.

The spokesperson pointed out that this was not the first time protests had caused problems. “In 2005 we faced protest action that was more important in the Susa valley against the first route of Lyon-Turin and also against a survey tunnel in Venaus, Susa. The Italian government then abandoned the project. In 2006 a new procedure of consultation was launched under the direction of the government commissioner, Mario Virano. More local authorities of the Susa valley agree with this new procedure, although local opposition remains important.”